General Studies Paper 4 (Ethics): You being Block Development Officer – a case study on menstruation taboo



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Syllabus: General Studies Paper 4 (Ethics)


Imagine you are acting as a Block development officer in a district. You have come across a situation, where one of the village of your district is suffering from a Menstruation taboo and people hardly talk about it. Taboos surrounding menstruation excluded women and girls from many aspects of social and cultural life.  Women use clothes as they can’t afford sanitary napkins or are too shy to buy it from the general store. When a renowned NGO attempted to spread awareness towards hygiene during menstruation by talking to the local women, the villagers and gram panchayat created ruckus and forced the representatives of the NGO to leave. The women of the village have been warned by their family members to stay away from such discussions.  ( 15 Marks )

The NGO asks for your support to create awareness among villagers and tackle the issue. Answer the following questions:

  1. According to you, what might be the main reason behind villagers protesting?  
  2. What steps would you take to combat the menstruation issue?


Reason behind villagers protesting.

In India even mere mention of the topic has been a taboo in the past and even to this date the cultural and social influences appear to be a hurdle for advancement of knowledge on the subject.

  • Culturally in many parts of India, mainly in villages menstruation is still considered to be dirty and impure. In the Hindu faith, women are prohibited from participating in normal life while menstruating. She must be “purified” before she is allowed to return to her family and day to day chores of her life. Menstruating girls and women are also restricted from offering prayers and touching holy books.
  • A patriarchal mindset among villagers prevents girls and women to discuss their problems in public, i.e. with NGO.
  • Lack of knowledge on health and hygiene issues related to menstruation amongst villagers also makes them to oppose the awareness program.


Steps to be taken to combat the issue.

  • First I will personally meet the members of gram panchayat, and try to educate them with health and hygiene issues during menstruation because it is important for men to understand menstruation so they can support their wives, daughters, mothers, students.
  • I will arrange a meeting of village elderly with people from other villages and their representatives where already the sanitary napkins are being used by village women.
  • I will persuade villagers to allow NGO for spreading awareness among villagers especially girls and women. Doctors and health practitioners would also be involved in the campaign to explain the adverse effects of using cloth during menstruation.
  • Menstruation in India has always been accompanied by myths and taboos and adolescent girls find it difficult to even discuss the issue with parents or elders in the family. Most of them turn to their teaching staff for advice on menstrual hygiene, so I will meet teachers of schools, and tell them to conduct awareness program related to menstrual health and hygiene in schools.
  • I will ask ASHA workers to become channel for spreading awareness.
  • Will ask NGO to campaign health education, in rural areas to spread awareness among villagers. And also ask NGO to volunteer representatives, who can visit houses and teach the usage of sanitary pads and health benefits from the same.
  • I will ask primary care physicians of local hospitals to explain the un hygiene issues of using cloths and other things during menstruation to all their patients. (especially adolescent girls)
  • I will spread awareness with help of co-operative societies and NGO and schools that sanitary napkins are not out of reach of common people. Because invention by arunachalam muruganatham has made these napkins affordable by even common people.
  • I will try to make the affordable sanitary napkins reach every corner of villages.
  • Initiate a behavioural change program with the help of community health workers, NGO and public volunteers to make people believe that menstruation need not be considered as a taboo rather it is a natural process.
  • I will move forward with providing education to all in the village especially girls and women so that they may be knowledgeable, aware of their rights, health issues and other issues in general which would go a long way in improving quality of life.

Taboos about menstruation present in many societies impact on girls’ and women’s emotional state, mentality and lifestyle and most importantly, health. Large numbers of girls in many less economically developed regions drop out of school when they begin menstruating. This includes over 23% of girls in India. Over 77% of menstruating girls and women in rural areas use an old cloth, which is often reused. Poor protection and inadequate hygiene practices may increases susceptibility to infection, may have significant implications for their mental health.

The most critical element in overcoming this taboo is, raising the awareness among the adolescent girls related to menstrual health and hygiene. Young girls often grow up with limited knowledge of menstruation because their mothers and other women shy away from discussing the issues with them. Adult women may themselves not be aware of the biological facts or good hygienic practices, instead passing on cultural taboos and restrictions to be observed. Hence we should make them aware their dignity in having their rights. Menstruation is nothing but a very normal biological phenomenon, and adolescent girls and women should understand that they have the power of procreation only because of this virtue.


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